This month I want to speak to men and fathers primarily. It’s not that women and moms don’t need to know about identity. They do, but if we fathers are going to live to love with Jesus, we need to understand who He is. We also can glean some very powerful insight into our children, especially our teens, when it comes to why they behave the way they do.
Why do they do what they do? What makes a teenage son or daughter want to color the ends of his or her hair orange, get a tattoo, or consider going trans? How is it that professional sports teams can make billions of dollars from selling paraphernalia with their logos on them? Why does a daughter allow a young man to lead her away from her father’s values and convictions? Why is social media so appealing? On a personal note, why do you have the haircut that you do? Why do you listen to and read the things you do? How about the language you use at work?
The answer to all of these questions and many more like them is found in understanding four identity principles. We need to have a working knowledge of these principles if we’re going to navigate our families through the treacherous waters of our post-modern culture. I would like to introduce you to the first of four identity principles, which is explained more fully in the first message from the Equipping Men Series: Practical Tools for Life’s Issues. Then I’ll give some suggestions as to how you can lead your family to learn and apply this first identity principle.
Identity has to do with the one(s) to whom you belong.
One may belong to a club, a husband, a wife, a church, a business group, a political party, or to parents, just to name a few. It’s all a matter of one’s identity. The first one to whom we each belonged was our fathers, which is illustrated in most cultures, of course, in our names. Biblically speaking, sons and daughters specifically belonged to the fathers. No offense or disregard intended here to the mothers. It was God who gave Adam the commandment to be fruitful and multiply before Eve was created. Eve was given to Adam in order that he might fulfill God’s plan. Consequently, as you read the Bible, you find genealogies which present records of fathers and sons or daughters, thus illustrating this point. But in general, most of us acknowledge that the children belong to their parents, which is also correct.
In the Bible we see this identity principle illustrated in numerous verses. For instance, Jesus’ identity is entirely described by His relationship with God, His Father. Christians are known as “sons of God” (1 John 3:1). Peter declared Jesus’ identity as “the son of the living God” and Jesus identified Peter as the son of Jona (Barjona means son of Jona).
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” And Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:15-17).
The idea of belonging is illustrated by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 3:23 he wrote, “and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.” In other words, your identity is in Christ and Jesus’ identity is in His Father.
It can also be said that one’s children belong to their parents. And perhaps the belonging idea is best illustrated in those children who are adopted. A legal right of ownership must be secured by the adoptive parents. Children are given to their parents by God, and their identities are wrapped up in who they are–in the early years. As long as parents give their children reasons for belonging to them or for identifying with them, the children will seek to imitate them and follow their lead. This requires that the hearts of the parents be turned to their children. But if parents do not understand this principle and become too occupied with their careers, ministries, recreations, or other responsibilities, the children will look for someone else with whom to identify–someone who will want them and give them good reasons to belong to them.
God has made His human creatures with a longing to belong. Each of us wants to know that we are wanted, needed, and valued by God and others. From one perspective, we’re born spiritually and emotionally empty with a need to be filled. God provided fathers to children to be a forerunner of God’s ultimate filling of that need in Himself.
With whom do I want to identify?
That’s the question that subconsciously drives all our choices. When a child discovers that his parents are too busy and they don’t provide hope and purpose for life, then the child usually looks to his peers. For instance, let’s imagine a twelve-year-old boy in his Sunday School class. He notices that two other boys seem to get all the attention of the girls in his class (as well as the teacher) as they act silly, disrespectful, and flirt. Without thinking why, he reasons if he can only become friends with (belong to or connect with) those two boys, he’ll be as popular as they are with the girls. So, he begins to act like them. He notices what kind of music, TV, movies, and recreation they enjoy and wants to become familiar with them so he can “relate” to the boys.
What is the typical response of parents when they notice a change of behavior in their child and an interest in things of which they do not approve? If they don’t know why he’s doing it, they may lecture their son about the surface issues (kinds of entertainment and choice of friends) and miss the heart of the issue–he’s longing to belong to someone who can offer him significance and hope which they haven’t offered. It’s a matter of identity. With whom does the child want to identify most? His parents? Or the two boys?
Can you relate to this? Consider your elementary and early teen years. With whom did you wish to identify or connect, and did it not have to do with a sense of acceptance, significance, and belonging? A particular peer group? A boyfriend or girlfriend? A sport or athletic star? A club such as a fraternity or a sorority?
With whom are you seeking to identify now? How is this having an effect on what you do at work? At home? At church? Here’s an idea. What about making this a topic of discussion in your family devotion time or a chat around the dinner table? Ask these same questions of each member of the family, and then each one write down a list of all the people or groups to whom or which each wanted to belong or connect.
The important point to remember is that identity has to do with whom you wish to belong. It has to do with connection. There’s a lot more to understand about the principles of identity, and I hope you’ll check out the resource Equipping Men: Practical Tools for Life’s Issues to learn more about the principles of identity at www.spiritofelijah.com.
Plan a men’s retreat for your church
Do the men of your church need to be equipped with the tools for life? Consider the impact on the families of the church if the men were settled in their identity in Christ, understood the power of integrity, were filled with the Spirit of Elijah, and were equipped to love like Jesus loves. These tools for life can be provided through a weekend men’s retreat. Then the men can follow up by using the Equipping Men series in church education classes or men’s groups. I hope you’ll pass on this information to the person who is responsible for planning men’s retreats at your church. I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.